Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium

Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium

Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium

Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium

Excerpt

From the time of their subjugation by the French in the 1860's until the state of Free Viet-Nam was created in 1954, the Vietnamese engaged in one effort after another to regain their political freedom. During these years of resistance they exhibited an ability to develop leaders of considerable courage and skill. Ngo Dinh Diem, leader of south Viet-Nam, and Ho Chi Minh, leader of north Viet-Nam, are both exceptionally capable men. Although the similarities and differences in the development of both states under these two strong leaders are worthy of study, our concern is only with the Viet-Nam of which Ngo Dinh Diem is President.

Today Diem is considered a dictator by some observers and a strong leader by others; a person who has made few errors of judgment by some, and one who has developed major policy errors by others. On Diem's leadership, William Henderson has this to say: "By the middle of 1956, after two years of power, Diem had still to prove that his professed devotion to the democratic cause represented anything more than a façade to disguise the increasingly plain reality of stern dictatorship." Expressing admiration for Diem's leadership, Ellen Hammer writes: "Since that time [independence] Diem has set about building a regime, step by step, on foundations that go deep into what in the past was legitimate and decent for an Asian country, namely Confucianist ethics. . . . In this development of a political credo which draws its deepest roots from traditions of which Asia can legitimately be proud, the service rendered by Diem to free Asia may well extend beyond the frontiers of his Republic of Viet-Nam." In Diem's elimination of the politico-religious sects, David Hotham says critically: "far from being the triumph it was acclaimed, the breakdown of negotiations and degeneration of the situation into open war was, at best, a failure of leadership." Supporting Diem's move is Joseph Buttinger, who writes: "It is part of Ngo Dinh Diem's political greatness not to have succumbed to the deceptive magic of unity, to have refused to enter into . . .

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